Lawyers have a duty to get the client's consent to any settlement. But there are possibly some more facts to this that you have not included in your post. Did the lawyer actually settle the case, or just tell the client not to come to the hearing?
This answer is intended as general information and not as specific legal advice. If you want to have a free consultation with me, please contact me through AVVO.
No workers' comp case can be settled without the injured worker's signature. No workers' comp case can be settled without the workers' comp judge's approval. You can go down to the workers' comp court (WCAB) and ask to see what happened. You can ask your attorney for a copy of the paperwork of what happened. Even if he did do something unethical, any settlement check would be sent with the attorney fee to him and the balance directly to you. it's unlikely that your attorney, the judge, the defense attorney and the insurance company are all in cahoots.
Attorney Borah’s advice is right on. If you have doubts then go to the WCAB and see what happened to your case.
DISCLAIMER: David J. McCormick is licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin and this answer is being provided for informational purposes only because the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship.
I also agree with Attorney Borah. A Work Comp case in California is settled either by a document called a Compromise and Release (S&R), or a Stipulations with Request for Award (Stip), either document must have the injured workers signature, and in fact the injured workers signature on a C&R must be witnessed. The proceeds of either type of settlement are sent directly to the injured workers' address of record, with attorney fees deducted and sent to the attorney.
What you describe sounds quite unusual, and the correct advice is to contact the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, and ask directly what happened in your case.
The attorney could not negotiate a settlement without your agreement. There must be a reason the attorney stated there is no case. You need to speak with your attorney to find out why he said you do not have a case. You may need to speak with the Information and Assistance Officer at your local Board for further information. Did your client dismiss you?